Archive | August 2016

Snapshot Wisconsin expands to 4 new counties

If you’ve been following our project updates, you know that we’re rolling out on a county-by-county basis. This makes it manageable for our small DNR team to recruit and train volunteers to host trail cameras across the state.

Well, as of today, we’re happy to announce that enrollment is now open in four new counties, bringing our county total to six: Iowa, Iron, Jackson, Manitowoc, Sawyer, and Waupaca. Any individual or organization in these counties with access to 10 acres of land is now encouraged to apply to host a trail camera. We are also continuing to accept applications from educators and tribal members/affiliates across the state.

Counties

Look for photos from these counties in future seasons of Snapshot Wisconsin on Zooniverse!

Meanwhile, the project continues to get positive press. Here’s Dan Small, everyone’s favorite Wisconsin outdoors icon, giving Snapshot Wisconsin a shout out:

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Young of the Year

At last count, we are 38% of the way through Season Two of Snapshot Wisconsin! On behalf of the research team, thank you! Keep up the great work!

Today I am sharing some of our favorite photos of deer fawns, bear cubs, and other young from previous seasons.  For the purposes of this project, we define “young” as offspring of the year, or animals less than one year old.  Because it is difficult to tell juveniles from adults by late fall, spring and summer photos are a great time to spot photos of young. To differentiate young from adults look for differences in body size, as well as juvenile markings, like the spots on deer fawns.  See our FAQ section for more details.

Have you spotted young of any other species? Share with us in the comments or on the Talk boards!

Snapshot Wisconsin: Hosting a trail camera

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Fawn selfie – Clam Lake Camera Grid – photo credit Wisconsin DNR trail camera

Season 1 and Season 2 of Snapshot Wisconsin feature images from our elk trail camera networks near Black River Falls and Clam Lake, Wisconsin.  These cameras were setup and have been monitored over the last year by WDNR staff as well as partners such as Jackson County Forest and Parks and Ho-Chunk Nation DNR.  Recently the majority of these cameras were transitioned to volunteers for future monitoring.  Our project staff enjoyed the opportunity to get out in the field when the cameras needed to be checked but having the cameras managed by volunteers will allow the cameras to be checked more consistently.

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Bull Elk resting – photo credit Wisconsin DNR trail camera

Future seasons of Snapshot Wisconsin will feature images from trail cameras setup and monitored by volunteers on their own land across the state.  Anyone in Wisconsin with access to private land can sign up to host trail cameras to capture images of wildlife that may be present on their property.  The only requirements for trail camera hosts are that they have access to at least 10 acres of contiguous private land, and agree to maintain a trail camera on that land for at least one year.

Training is provided for the trail camera hosts by Snapshot Wisconsin project staff either in person in the county where they live or via online instructional videos.  During training the volunteers learn about the goals of Snapshot Wisconsin, how our data will compliment other monitoring efforts across the state and support wildlife management decisions.  The volunteers will have their own MySnapshot account which is the portal used by trail camera volunteers for uploading, viewing and classifying their photos.  We only require trail camera volunteers to review their photos in order to remove any photos of humans that may have been missed by our automated human detection process.  The volunteers may view and classify the remainder of their photos within MySnapshot if they choose.

Iowa County Training

Iowa County Training Session – photo credit Wisconsin DNR

Equipment including the trail camera, rechargeable batteries, battery charger, SD cards and mounting unit are provided.  Trail camera hosts need to have a computer with reliable access to the internet and a smart phone or hand-held GPS device for capturing camera location coordinates.  Along with retrieving the SD cards and replacing the batteries 4 times per year we also ask that volunteers clear the vegetation from a 10-15 foot area in front of their camera.  We have been continually working on reducing the number of blank photos that we have to manage and removing vegetation is an important step.

Enrollment for trail camera hosts is open state wide for educators and tribal affiliates on tribal land, while general enrollment for volunteers on private land is open in Iowa and Sawyer counties.  Four additional counties will follow by the end of this year, with the rest of Wisconsin to enroll over the next few years.  Those who are interested in hosting a camera on private land in counties that are not open yet are encouraged to apply and they will be notified when enrollment opens in that county.  When it is fully rolled out across Wisconsin, Snapshot Wisconsin will be the largest citizen science project in the state.

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Sandhill Crane in flight – photo credit Wisconsin DNR trail camera

Trail camera hosts began putting their cameras out this spring and have been calling and emailing Snapshot Wisconsin staff to excitedly report the animals they have been seeing on their cameras.  One volunteer said this about seeing a coyote: “I wanted to get a coyote and we finally got one!  I have never seen one here so that was very exciting for me personally”.

Visit the Snapshot Wisconsin webpage on the WDNR website for complete details and to sign up for the Snapshot Wisconsin e-newsletter.

Linking trail cameras and remote sensing

One of our research goals is to understand where wildlife can be found across the state and how that distribution changes seasonally. Seasonal changes (i.e. phenology) are associated with the availability of cover and food for wildlife and are important in understanding the variability in species distributions. In this project, we are utilizing two ways to understand phenology: remote sensing data and trail camera images.

Remote sensing data:  Snapshot Wisconsin is partnering with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to use earth-observing satellites to capture broad scale changes in forest phenology across the state. NASA employs several satellites such as MODIS and Landsat that orbit the earth and take ‘pictures’ of the surface at regular intervals. These ‘pictures’ are composed of measures of light reflected off the surface of the earth. Different land cover types reflect light in distinct ways, and change across seasons as plants begin leaf growth, reach peak green-up, and begin to shed leaves in autumn. Using images from space, we can capture changes in forest productivity, and the timing of forest green-up and brown-down across large regions.

Trail camera images: In addition to the satellite data, we’ve leveraged the trail cameras to capture site specific phenological data.  You already know that the trail cameras take motion and heat triggered images. In addition, each camera is programmed to take one photo at approximately 11:00 a.m. each day, generating a set of time series photos.   The below video shows an example of green-up at one of our camera sites.

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11:00 a.m. trail camera photos taken over the course of 3 months

Another exciting application of these trail camera images is the opportunity to validate phenological models.  For a number of our cameras, we have fit phenological curves to the camera data (see below graph). Our analysis shows that the daily photo sets closely match MODIS satellite data. Future work will link this type of phenological data to our understanding of wildlife populations.

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Comparison of trail camera phenology (red) to MODIS phenology (green) for a trail camera